Thursday, November 22, 2007
England always get through, the idea that England isn't a top 16 European footballing nation is ludicrous, after all we have Owen, Rooney, Lampard, Gerrard, John Terry, some of the best players in the world.
So, last night we had our friends Jack and Gwen over and opened up a lovely wine, the Antinori Chianto Classico Riserva 2001, in anticipation of a win or a draw over Croatia. England needed just 1 point to go through and were playing at the New Wembley, what could be simpler right?
England stunk. In the face of our wonderful Antinori, England were the cheapest bottle of straw covered Chianti you can find. Weak, insipid, uninspired and with a poor finish, I can not even give a score to this vintage. Shocking! 2 goals down in 15 minutes, only to pull them back in the second half and gave a nation hope. I knew we'd go on to lose. I've watched England compete in too many sporting events not to know, I've watched Henman at Wimbledon, the Rugby team, the Formula One drivers. I think all of us watching, live or on the box, knew that we wouldn't hold on, that we'd fall on our own sword and lose the game.
So, I'm giving up on being English. I'm just going to ignore my heritage and hide my passport because I'm tired of being a loser! Yesterday I applied for my Italian "Residenzia" at the local comune. I was expecting a long wait, an arduous task of to-ing and fro-ing but I was all done in 20 minutes! So now, I am officially a resident of Italy.
I can flash my Carta Identita at the airport and no one need ever know that I'm English again! My Team, that being the Italian football squad, are the current World champions. Oh yes, and My Team, that being the Ferrari Formula One racing team, are the current F1 champions.
So, for all you poor English readers with your rubbish teams and terrible wine I'm going to review another of my beautiful homegrown Italian wines, the aforementioned Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva 2001. This wine went wonderfully well with our "Burger Night", consisting, as you'd imagine, of burger and fries. The burgers were fantastic home made masterpieces so on this occasion, matching with the Chianti went very well. This wine would be well suited to a hearty meaty pasta dish and could easily accompany a nice steak dinner.
Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva 2001 - BUY - €20
Very dark colour in the glass, intense dark ruby red with some nice pinky looking hues. The nose is fruity, spicy with the most noticeable aroma profiles of blackberries and vanilla. On the palate we've got some good tannic structure and some noticeable acidity, the wine is well balanced and enjoyable with good length on the finish as well as warming alcohol. Mid to Full bodied wine. 91 Points
I really recommend this Chianti to you. If you've been exposed to bad Chianti in the past you're probably left with a negative "What the deuce" attitude about this wine. Chianti is a little devil, you have to be certain of what you're buying and I'm certain of this. Wonderful year for Chianti so please try some.
Where can I buy this wine?
Americans - Shopperswines - $25
Europeans - Italian Wine Shop - €20
Brits - Winedirect - £15.95
I'm afraid I have some bad news for you all. Tomorrow I leave for my vacation so there wont be a daily update on the blog. However, I am collecting material for a super dooper double blog entry about the USA's Italian wine scene. That sounds boring but really it wont be! Have faith!
Question of the Day?
What does your nation do best?
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Wine variance through the regions of Italy is directly related to the regional foods. It is no happy accident that the wines of Italy have a high acidity content. The Italian diet consisted of fish, tomatoes, olive oil and condiments such a vinegar and lemons were used to cut through that fatty/oily diet with acid. If drinking wine, then acidic wines were called for, Valpolicella, Dolcetto and Chianti being good examples.
Oily foods, fish etc, need to be cut with a sharpness that Italian wines can provide. Normally we would seek to pair fish with a white wine, but some Italian reds can also do the job. Today we are going to look at Food/Wine matches to make, and most importantly, food/wine matches to avoid. These recommendations are not cast in stone, just like wine itself, food/wine pairings are down to individual taste. I can't imagine many enjoying the metallic taste you're left with when you pair a tannic bordeaux with oily fish but, if you had braces as a child, perhaps it will give you immense pleasure recalling your childhood.
There are very few perfect matches, so never worry about finding the perfect food/wine match. There are however, some basic principles that should help you never make a bad choice when ordering wine for food.
The Theory Test
When matching food and wine all you need to do is take into consideration some easy to grasp basic principles. When you have these etched on your brain, the worry over what wine to buy for a family event or special meal will melt away like the butter in a saucepan.
1) Chewy foods go with chewy tannins. So your powerful Cabernets and a tannic Merlot would be a loving partner for steaks, beefburgers, a roast meal, a beef stew, really any dark meats.
2) Fatty and oily foods go with acidic wines. As I mentioned, if you don't want to take a white wine that is the traditional pairing then you can take an acidic Italian red. Valpolicella, Dolcetto, Chianti will all do this job. The white wines of Alsace and Riesling are a more traditional pairing.
3) Salty foods match sweet or highly acidic wines. A salty chicken soup will match up with an acidic wine, like a Chianti or a sweet wine, like Lambrusco.
4) Either match the flavour profile or contrast the flavour profile. If you've tasted a wine before and thought, "wow, that's just like oranges" then you can match it with duck l'orange for example. If you think a wine has a contrasting flavour to a food; that can work too. Try things, think about the characteristics of the wine, the weight, the acidity, richness and intensity and then think about the meal. Does it share these qualities? If so, it probably goes well. If it's the opposite, it probably goes well. If it's a hit and miss kind of thing, it'll probably bomb.
5) The quick match tick list. If all that seems too much to remember then just go with the quick match tick list. Match all these characteristics to the wine.
- Weight - heavy meals=heavy wines or light and airy foods=light wine
- Acidity - high acidity food=high acidity wine
- Sweetness - sweet food=sweet wine
- Richness - rich food=rich wine
- Flavour Intensity - strong flavours in the food=strong flavoured wine
Cheese gets its own little subsection. Everybody loves wine and cheese they are perfect together, they are the Laurel and Hardy of food/drink combinations but even this perfect pair can go horribly wrong. Lets take some basic Italian cheese and match them up.
Gorgonzola and Blue Cheeses- Valpolicella, Amarone
Goats Cheese and Soft Cheeses - Sauvignon Blanc, the Northern whites.
Food and Wine Pairings from Hell
1) Tannic wines and fish - metallic and nasty, a complete no-no.
2) Subtle wines and Spicy foods - Curries or Chinese foods with lowly flavoured wines.
3) Meaty and heavy dishes with light wines - Steak and Champagne for example.
Question of the Day
Share your food matches from heaven and your food matching mistakes.
Monday, November 19, 2007
When I buy a bottle of wine I don't simply think about the price, my key criteria is not always even the taste, but when I buy wine I'm buying into the whole story. I want to know everything, about the grape, the conditions at the vineyard, the vintage, the producer, I am buying into the life of the wine. It's a romantic, old fashioned notion, and I am in a vast minority.
Price is what matters today. With wines from all over the world becomingly increasingly available the Italian market can not even rely on the loyalty of Italian wine drinkers anymore. Top quality wines, hand picked grapes, low yields are exceptionally expensive and this cost is passed onto the consumer. Young Italians aren't interested in the tradition or the story of the wine. They want quality wines yes, but with a jazzy label. Braida and Planeta are doing their utmost to embrace the young Italian wine drinker with cool commercials and hip marketing and are carving out a niche for themselves with the wealthy younger generation (consider a bottle of Planeta/Braida is still usually over €15)
This is a step in the right direction by Braida and Planeta but much much more needs to change. Italian wine makers need desperately to set up consortia in order to promote their wines at home and abroad. The New World is going to bite us in the ass. Not by the quality of their wine as was feared but their ability to market their products and face marketing costs together.
Take for example Chile, a hugely successful emerging wine country has only 130 producers creating some 10 million hectolitres of wine. Another example is Australia, 300 of their producers account for 75% of their total export.
Italian wine is the worlds leading importer of wine into the States but nowhere near enough is being done to fend off the New World attack. Personally I hope the Italian wine producers can strike some kind of balance. I don't want to see huge Italian wine consortium's and have an unavoidable decrease in quality with a higher importance placed on the brand yet I don't want the smaller producers to disappear unable to sell their expensive wines and unable to compete with their marketing. We're in a time of change and can't rely on the simple fact the wine is "Italian" with all the romantic notions attached to that label.
Question of the day?
What criteria influence your decision to buy wine?
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Although the first bottles were open at 4pm the food was not ready until 8pm so, to accompany the food, and because most of the wine was gone, I opened a magnum of Giacosa Barolo Falletto 1998. Everybody enjoyed this wine and it was truly exceptional. This bottle was the best Italian wine I've ever had. Maybe it's the turkey talking but I truly can't think of another bottle I've tried that beats this. Consider the fact it is still improving, I highly recommend this wine for a special occasion. The aromas flew out of the bottle with no decanting. We really should have decanted the wine as smelling the small amount left this morning it has taken on a different character but, straight out of the bottle, it was a beautiful wine.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
The date: 17/11/07
The time: 6pm CET
The location: My living room
The event: Italy Vs France: Thanksgiving Drink Off.
I hope noone will be sent off, I really pray noone will be headbutted but when feelings are running as high as this, you can't rule it out. I can promise there will be pride, patriotism and tears shed and by the end of the night the champion will be crowned but will they hail from the mighty plains of the Piedmont or the "baron" wastelands of Bordeaux - a panel of 12 will decide who is the Ultimate Wine Country with myself, as the unbiased referee.
What the heck am I on about?
I've received many emails in the past few weeks with requests to review certain Italian wines and it's something I'd like to add to the blog once every week, so keep them coming!
Last night I zipped to the local supermarket and purchased some wines that have been requested these included Angelini's Brunello di Montalcino 2001, Fontanafredda Barbaresco 2000, Casale del Giglio Petit Verdot 2004 and from someone who emailed anonymously, the Baron Philippe de Rothschild Pauillac.
The last wine was something of a chicken dare because a) It's not Italian b) It's Bordeaux and c) It's the "worst" Bordeaux the nameless emailer could think of. He thinks that this wine is better than any Italian wines so I'm going to put it to the ultimate test. FIght Fight Fight!
Tonight I have 12 house guests for a "Thanksgiving Meal" and thought "what a perfect time to turn the event into a spectacle for myself! Of course I'm really excited about my first Thanksgiving meal but wine/food pairing experts will be tutting loudly at the wines on the list BUT what ya gonna do. It's all good fun and that's what counts.
French Bordeaux or a cup of tea? ----->
Tonight we have guests from England, Ireland, Italy and the States so we've eliminated our "Italian's do it best" bias (just overlook the fact we all live in Rome!) and will give the Pauillac a fair swill around our palates.
Boy o Boy am I going to feel rough tomorrow, but I won't let you down, noooooo siree! Tomorrow I'll publish the tasting notes and tell you which wines were down with the hood and which wines were down with the sink.
How you can help me?
a) If you enjoy reading the blog and would like to get involved send me your wine suggestions. If you hate the blog and just want to see me struggle like my mystery man with the Pauillac then that's fine too.
b) Send me your tasting notes, if you've tried a bottle that really impressed you or made you feel nauseous then send it in and I'll add it to the blog. No average wines though, has to be something interesting about the experience you had.
Who requested what:
Angelini Brunello di Montalcino Val di Suga 2001 - Helena Bingham - Thanks I love you!
Fontanafredda Barbaresco 2000 - Julius Fielder - I'm very happy with you.
Casale del Giglio Petit Verdot 2004 - Simon L - Interested to taste some PV tonight (:ox)
Baron Philippe de Rothschild Pauillac - Anon E Mouse - The truth will out!
Wish me luck! xxxx
Friday, November 16, 2007
For those who don't know there are two schools of Barolo production, the Modern school Vs the Traditional school. Both are capable of producing great wines with a number of other top flight producers taking the best of both schools. Clerico is a pace setter in the Modern camp.
Clerico's wines are experimental improvements year on year and he doesn't rest on his laurels even when striking gold (a 100 point Wine Spectator review). In his most recent Barolos, Clerico has extended the maceration time of the grapes to 23 days. It will be very interesting to see how this effects the wine, though we will have to wait until 2010 before the Barolos are released to see.
Domenico Clerico's vineyards are scattered throughout the Piedmont and he produces many different wines. The Barolo of the Ginestra vineyards is the most consistently excellent (Barolo Ciabot Mentin Ginestra) but you can't go wrong with a Percristina or Pajana Barolo.
If the €100+ price tags on these wines are a little daunting, then you can sample the excellence of Domenico Clericos production by trying his Barbera, Dolcetto and the famous Langhe Art, a barrique blended but most Nebbiolo wine. The Langhe Art retails at about €20 and I recommend this to all of you! Unless you are allergic to wine, then just stay away. My guilty passion is Dolcetto though, and these go for around €10, very tasty, try it.
Domenico Clerico is my 2nd favourite producer and I don't have as much experience of his wines as I would like with only a couple of tasting notes available SO, I will get some Clerico's in the house and get a full set review for Christmas.
I am away on my holidays (or vacation for the americans among you) from next Friday so the entries will be less frequent BUT I will make up for this with my VIDEO WINE DIARY!
Domenico Clerico Percristina 2000 - BUY - €190
Thick, jammy and purple in the glass the nose is a sweet mixture of flowers, cherries, tobacco and a little spice box. Lavishly full bodied and mouth coating the palate is a pleasurable blackcurrent jam attack. Nice length on the finish, alcohol hidden well. Easy drinking and pleasurable today. 91 Points
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Well, whilst I feel sorry for my fellow countrymen, I live in Italy so can take advantage of the wonders of Italian Ebay. Just to rub it in a little further I'm going to show you exactly what you're missing.
I've been buying wine from Ebay for a few months now and I have two super trooper Italian Wine prize purchases that I have to share with you.
Firstly, 2 MAGNUMS of Bruno Giacosa 1998 Barolo Falletto for €80 each.
Secondly 1 MAGNUM of Roberto Voerzio 1998 Barolo Sarmassa for €90.
To buy both these bottles in the UK you're looking at £373.00 for the Giacosa (Fine and Rare) and £234 for the Voerzio also from Fine and Rare.
Today, as of 10am 15/11/07, Ebay has 2000 different auctions online selling wines from all over Italy. Right now, we have Wine Spectators 7th wine of 2007 the Bolgheri Superiore Ornellaia at €60! This is a crazy price and I'm sure, with just a few hours left to run, the price wont reach €80.
Apart from the brilliant wine you can find on the Ebay, it's just real fun. I love drinking wine but almost as much I love buying wine and I adore getting wine on a steal. It's something of a high to spot a really great value wine with the auction end in sight and put in that last 30 second bid and gazzump poor Joe Schmoe. It's addictive.
I can highly recommend checking out the Italian Ebay, some members will post to the UK, you just have to ask them in advance. All the bottles I've bought have been fine but it's best to buy from a trusted seller, one with many positive reviews. Just don't outbid me, alright?
Italian Wine is reaping the rewards of the current fashion in the USA to embrace all things Italian and scooped two prestigious awards last night from the American US magazine, Wine Enthusiast. Carlo Ferrini won "Enologist of the Year" and Josh Mariani, founder of Banfi, won the lifestyle achievement award.
Other award winners were
- Persons of the Year: Ray Chadwick, Diageo Chateau & Estate Wine
- American Winery of the Year: DFV Wines
- European Winery of the Year: Symington Family Estates, Portugal
- New World Winery of the Year: Villa Maria, New Zealand
- Importer of the Year: E & J Gallo
- Distiller of the Year: Casa Herradura, Brown-Forman
- Retailer of the Year: Whole Foods Market
- Winemaking Region of the Year: Rioja, Spain
The award ceremony will take place on January 28, 2008 during the Gala Dinner at the New York Public Library.$34,000 for a 9 litre bottle of Ornellaia
Record-breaking auction to restore Florence baptistery doors - Bolgheri’s Tenuta dell Ornellaia celebrated their twentieth year with a bang in New York City following the sale of a bottle of Salmanazar for $33,600 (400 times its market value) at a Christie’s auction. The one-of-a-kind nine-litre bottle featured a pure gold silkscreen in place of a label.
The winners were a Seattle couple that had gone to the auction with the intention of bidding on Lot Number 8 - the only bottle of Italian wine on the docket. The 2005 Ornellaia won’t hit shelves until May 2008, thereby giving the buyers a unique preview of this prestigious wine. “We were the only Italian product in an auction containing more than 200 wines and champagnes,” said estate general manager, Giovanni Geddes da Filicaja. The newest feature was the bottle’s never-before-seen shape and size, which was made expressly for this occasion”.
Proceeds from the sale were donated to American non-profit association, Friends of Florence, and will be used to restore Giovanni Francesco Rustici’s statues on the doors of the Baptistery of Florence.
Tuscan reds to be produced in the Big Apple
Crespina and Staten Island team up - The first Tuscan red ‘Made in New York’ are set to be produced within the next three years.
A full harvest is expected by the fourth year thanks to the Tuscan Garden Vineyard - a project brought about thanks to the sister cities agreement between Crespina (near Pisa) and Staten Island, New York.
The city’s botanical gardens will be home to two acres of Tuscan vineyards with 2,100 vines divided into 58 traditional Tuscan rows.
The vines - which are native Tuscans but cannot be exported directly from Italy due to American sanitation laws - will be purchased from the largest Italian grower in the United States (based in California).
The Tuscan Garden Vineyard will host a Tuscan wine shop and will be an information centre for Tuscan wines in general, including publications on the subject as well as hosting oenology and wine tasting courses.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Bolgheri Superiore Ornellaia 2004 - #7
The first Italian wine to make it into Wine Spectators TOP 10 of 2007 is really not a surprise to those in Italian wine. The Bolgheri Superiore Ornellaia 2004 from Tenuta dell'Ornellaia got 97 points from James Suckling. This is a blended wine from the Tuscan coast in the Bordeaux tradition so was bound to tickle the tastebuds of Senoir Suckling.
Trully it is a wonderful wine but with the Barolo's of 2003 lacking in majesty it's probably up to our old chum Brunello to save the day.
Red wines so far dominate Wine Spectators revealed Top 10 (WS is revealing the Top 10 from the bottom up, 2 each day) with no white wines in places 10 to 5 and just one champagne.
Everyone is trying to guess what the number #1 will be, but I really have no idea. Do you?
Where can I buy this wine?
Europeans - Di Liva - €100
Americans - PJ Wine - $149
Brits - Antique Wine Company - £100